How To Write About What You Don't Know

by Ruud Hein March 14th, 2012 

Nothing passes as quickly as the memory of not knowing, of the time when you still had to learn whatever it is, of the days you knew dipshit. Sure, there's a vague impression of not being sure and maybe a funny anecdote or two about how you messed something up, but the real specifics are gone.

That's a shame because the people after you would love to know what you found out. They would worship you like a god really appreciate it if you could correctly answer the very questions you had.

There's blogging gold in them early days…

The Journey Is The Destination

It's that simple.

The part where you think you first have to learn about this or get better at that before you're ready to write about it, to blog about it — that part is the material.

Whether it's for keyword research into specialized Sitz type bath equipment, to figure out what to write about Spong coffee grinders, or because you are simply new at whatever job it is, writing about your questions, the research into their answers, and finally about the answers you found, covers search queries everyone in your position comes up with but almost nobody writes about.

The Process

Start taking notes immediately as you research. I find a mindmap an excellent format for this. If you want to geek out at this, grab Personal Brain so you can make a mindmap much deeper than usual.

Of course any type of structured note taking will do and will help. An outline. Clipped entries into Evernote. Keeping tabs in OneNote.

What's important is that you take notes as you go along, describing and following the process.

Write your first query. Which link do you click and why? That was a good, promising hook; note it. Does the entry answer your question? Why? Why not?

What new questions does the entry raise? Which of these is key for you to understand? What associations do you make?

How easy is it for each question to find answers? How easy is it to find good answers?

Which queries do you repair? How do you change those queries? Why? We're the results inaccurate, totally off base, or just too shallow? Make a note of which query finally worked — and which result clicked finally satisfied your needs.

The Result

The result should be a list of queries in the format:

[query] – importance – how good/shallow are the results – star or other sign to note holes in current online content

What To Do With The Result

Your list of self-observed queries forms a content map. Everywhere you had to research is an opportunity for content. Every time you had to open a new tab and figure out what a term means is a hole in someone else's content that you should fill.

The map also clearly shows which areas are already well served. Every search on Google will give 10 links; doesn't mean they're good ones. Your map shows which queries had result pages overflowing with solid content knowledge — and which queries landed you in the waters of fluffy crap, shady domain names, and digging deep and rewriting your query until you found what you were looking for.

Your map also highlights common misconceptions or naming conflicts. Not all searches for [ir] lead to information retrieval and when they do, sometimes people were still looking for infrared.

Conclusion

  • Write down what you research
  • Note how easy it is to find the right answer
  • Note what new questions you have now
  • Highlight any difficulty in finding good or complete content
  • The resulting map shows you:
    • A query map from start to finish almost every newcomer will take
    • Saturated content areas ("just like everybody else")
    • Shallow content areas (improvement opportunity)
    • Content holes (niche gold)
    • Who your competition is and why
    • All the terms and repaired terms people will search by
Ruud Hein

My paid passion at Search Engine People sees me applying my passions and knowledge to a wide array of problems, ones I usually experience as challenges. People who know me know I love coffee.

Ruud Hein

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